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"Growing Up"

Growing Up

Chaper One: Despair
Chapter Two: Regret
Chapter Three: Guilt
Chapter Four: Fear
Chapter Five: Shame
Chapter Six: Love
Chapter Seven: Bliss

Growing Up


What lies behind us and what lies before us
are small matters compared to what lies within us.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gambit watch the street movement through dark shades although the sun had set hours ago. Rumor had it in the thief underground that a new mutant assassin had moved into the New York area for a big score. Remy wanted to know who the assassin was, whom they worked for, and who the mark was. His business dealings with the different crime lords, street gangs and thieves guilds had turned up only general data. That meant out of town action, and probably a big target. He knew the Kingpin had beefed up his security concerned about a possible hostile takeover.

Luckily, when no one else knew anything, always ask the hookers. Tammy , a leggy peroxide blond on Lex had a friend who had a friend who had a friend that did a weapons dealer every other Wednesday night. Cardinal Rule: Never, never, talk business in bed. First, there are better things to do in bed, and second, it can get you in a whole lot of trouble. Discuss it with your girlfriend or wife before dinner, and it certainly ain't the reason you have a girl on the side in the first place. But some (no, many) guys don't know when to keep their mouths shut. (Lucky for him) The dealer had supplied a very special weapon to some out of town talent at this hotel yesterday, and the talent was still checked in.

Surveillance was usually long and boring. He discarded the old piece of gum for a new one. The craving for a cigarette dull but still there. Wolverine grumbled. He didn't have anyone to smoke with anymore proclaiming Remy throughly whipped already despite not having fully moved in with Solitaire yet.

Everyone had accepted the name fine. Sam loving it, while Bobby couldn't help but crack a joke or two. Rogue, which most everyone still called her, big surprise, even he had a hard time changing habits about it, finally took all she could take out by the lake a week ago and dumped him in the swampy mud along the west bank. Most of the ribbing finally stopped not long thereafter.

Telling the X-Men about his involvement in the Morlock Massacre was a bit trickier matter though. But with Rogue at his back, he managed to confess it to Ororo and then the rest. He felt he had let down Ororo the most, but she, Joseph, Jean, and Beast were the most supportive respecting him for finding the courage to face his mistakes. Sam, Logan, and surprisingly Bobby took it as a part of his past and said he'd earned the right to stay. Only Bishop, Psylocke, Archangel, and Scott still wanted to know about his involvement with Sinister to the last detail. Still, Bishop commented later that he guessed Gambit did have some value to the team. All in all, he was coming to terms with some of the mistakes of his past. It was a start.

And Jean wanted him to work on his empathic abilities. Remy was more doubtful about that. Maybe one day.

The actual big brew-ha-ha, though, occurred over them moving out. Everybody's favorite fearless leader had a snit about them not being right on hand to fight mutant oppression. Wolverine and Jean both noted that not everyone was standing by every second anyway. Each member had things they were responsible for, and Gambit was already out a lot of nights snooping for information like the professor had asked him to.

They all knew to a minor extent Gambit kept track of the shadowy mutant underworld they rarely saw. But only Wolverine and Rogue knew for sure just how deep he got into it while Remy was sure Jean and Bishop suspected more. If Joseph was Magneto, he'd probably have known better too.

Cyclops still didn't like it, but with them getting something between Westchester and New York, and Rogue's flying ability, they could be on hand in no time if they were available. But then that lead into them getting jobs and Scott didn't like that either. Rogue looked like she was going to blow a gasket, but Jean doused the fire. Rogue's public relations job with a major image and marketing firm was only going to get them contacts and information in the finance, business, and political scene while Remy's in a top security agency was bound to be a wealth of knowledge as well.

The security job was an old standing offer Remy'd had for a couple of years with an ex-Israeli intelligence officer that he'd bumped heads with back in his less upstanding days. Mordecai Knight was a crafty SOB that had almost caught Remy a couple of times in his early days. He knew Remy did it. He just couldn't prove it. When he retired, he invited Remy to join him in his security and bodyguard agency. Skills like his would be invaluable in the business. At the time, Remy wasn't exactly seeing himself on the serve and protect side of things, but Mordecai told him the offer was always on the table if he changed his mind. So he changed his mind. Besides, Armor Security was considered one of the best private firms in the business these days. They covered a number of the major players and businesses in the world. The intelligence information he'd have access to would be helpful to both himself and the X-Men. They also had a large corporate office in New York, and Mordecai knew better than to ask Remy to divulge his secrets and his friends. Remy was hired to show them the weak links in their systems and keep an ear to the ground for any news that might be important to their clients. It was perfect. He kept a lot of his own hours, and he was basically being paid to do exactly what he was already doing for the X-Men. Rogue was disgusted and said he cheated. She had to get a real job.

She got hired in an associate level position at Wright & Son Consulting, one of the top image firms in the world, headquartered in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong. Rogue had prepared days for the interview and made sure her degree from Xavier's had everything on it. She was so proud when she got the position. She'd earned it by creating a proposal for updating a company's outdated community assistance program. Remy was proud too, even if the one time he dropped by to see her cubicle and bring her flowers, & Son was nearly slobbering on her desk. Sonny-boy decided to leave when Rogue introduced him to Remy. It was right then Remy decided visiting Rogue at the 'office' was probably not a good thing to do too much. He got the distinct feeling he'd end up slugging & Son before long. He knew she could handle it, so he decided staying out of it was in his best interests. Rogue didn't say anything about the occasional interested lady he had to work with. And mostly, he tried to keep the subject undiscussed. No reason to go looking for a fight.

The nice thing about the job was that Rogue could spend a good deal of her time working out of their house office as she prepared her graphics and presentations. And he liked her direct boss, Catherine Taylor, the sharp business woman that had hired Rogue. Not to mention, to appeal to his lecherous side, Rogue looked great in her breezy pants suits, and she had taken to wearing this little French beret to hide her white streak. It was sort of sexy. He, on the other hand, had to wear some classic business suits every now and then, which she thought were so handsome. Damn ties.

All and all, things in his life were looking up, but that didn't mean it was all smooth sailing. Far from it actually. Being with Rogue was one of the most important things in his life. Already, he could hardly remember what it was like without her, but he couldn't imagine how Scott and Jean managed to keep their relationship on such an even keel. Though he admitted he suspected that to keep the peace, Jean tolerated Scott's heavy handedness knowing he wasn't going to change. Jean could be gracious that way, but Rogue wasn't about to let him run roughshod over her.

They definitely had their ups and downs. Her preparing for her interview had been very stressful, and he made the mistake of being too blaise about it since he had a job in the waiting. Not to worry, she'd find something sooner or later. It wasn't like she had to have a job, he'd said. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. He didn't mean to sound unfeeling, but that got him in the doghouse for a good hour or so. Still, she forgave him being insensitive. He'd done it for her.

Dog ... House. Another two things they had to come to an agreement on. Remy had been thinking small townhouse or small homeowners association care sort of places. He was absolutely not cutting grass. He didn't like grass, and it didn't like him. He grew up on the streets in the French Quarter of New Orleans. You just hosed the sidewalks off every morning. Watered a potted plant. Lawn maintenance was some ethereal concept he ignored. Electrical work and home repairs, ok, but he had hired an older man to keep up the small yard at his house in the Garden District. And one of the things he liked most about moving out was Storm could no longer drag him out in the wee hours of the morning and make him help her in her garden. Why did all the women around this place see him as their personal errand boy? Jean was always dragging him around to carry stuff. It wasn't exactly like he was the strongest guy on the team. Storm liked a gardening partner, and Rogue liked for him to help her cook. Luckily, Betsy usually only wanted his opinion on her latest outfit. But now, he wasn't going to be on the hook for all that sort of thing.

Seemed reasonable, right? Next thing he knows, they're looking at cute little farm houses a bit off the beaten path. Not that he didn't have the money, but...

"Ah want ah little garden, an' lotsa flowers an' ah place foah thah dog tah run an ..."

Needless to say, a few heated arguments ensued, including two nights in his own bed, and one day of 'fine, don' move in wit me', 'Good, I won't'. Sometimes she could be so pig-headed and demanding.

He was definitely going to miss the danger room as a place to work off some frustrations. He sighed. Actually, they'd be at the mansion plenty, but he was being negative at the time. Finally, they realized they were both being childish and began to compromise. This commitment thing was new to both of them. She could have her yard as long as he wasn't expected to spend much time in it.

"Ah'm not gonna force yah intah somethin yah don' want tah do even though ah want this. Ah'd do thah garden an' flowers but ah can't do it all, so ah guess we bettah look at ah smaller place."

No. If she was willing to give, so could he. He'd do some. And as for the rest, not to worry, he had a plan. "Sam, mon ami. Ya grew up on a farm, oui? How'd ya like ta... " Sam couldn't wait. He liked working outside and Xavier had Shi'ar technology that did the Mansion grounds. If Sam couldn't, he'd find someone else. Rogue agreed. No yard work unless he wanted to, but cooking ....

After that, he was content to let Rogue, Jean and Ororo drag him along on their house-hunting sprees. He usually slept in the back seat. And Rogue ignored that he really wasn't interested in wallpaper. They finally found a nice, but not huge, well built three bed room, three bath. It had 10 acres, partially wooded with a creek. Nearby, but not breathing down your neck, neighbors, and a section of the Morlock Tunnels underneath. It'd be easy to get to the mansion unnoticed, and he had to admit it was a lovely place.

And then there the dog incident.

Ok, he admitted it. This one was all his fault. It was just a dog, right? He was basically a cat person, but he liked dogs fine. They liked to be petted, fetched sticks, protected your home and generally adored you. So what's not to like? And she wanted a dog. Heck, it had taken some major cunning and smooth talking to Mystique to find out that's what Rogue had always wanted so he could buy her the stuffed one for Christmas. It was all a perception problem, really. His perception. His problem.

Rogue was giddy over getting the dog. She talked about it endlessly after she had finally got past the interview. She called people. You know, dog people. What do you feed them? What kind of shots do they have to have? Grooming? Etc. This should have been his clue. Don't mess with the dog. You're just the boyfriend. This is the furry baby. But no. He just had to stick his foot in his mouth.

The problem was he was thinking, well, dog. Big, lovable, licks your face, and runs around in the yard. German Shepard. Labrador. Those mutts you saw on the streets. He didn't know. Lassie something. Then came the big day, and she brought it home.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't done it with half of the X-Men hanging around. Wolverine and Bobby were no help at all either.

Rogue had been calling about dogs for a week. Late that afternoon, she had zipped off in her sports car to look at them. Considering the way she drives, Remy figured the poor little pup would be lucky if it wasn't car sick by the time she got it home.

He was playing a game of pool with Logan when she breezed back in all smiles and carrying a basket. Half of the X-Men were also hanging around the rec. room relaxing as well. He grinned at her.

"So, let's be seeing it p'tite."

Isn't she adorable, Remy." Rogue beamed holding out the basket for him.

He had looked down and blinked. He could have missed it if he hadn't been looking close. Two tiny black eyes looked up at him from a ball of brown and white hair not even as big as his fist. A fox like face with a bit of darker hair around it's eyes, he would have swore it was the teeniest, tiniest racoon he had ever seen. It was one of those small dogs like that lady had on the TV show "The Nanny".

At first he didn't know what to say. Rogue set the basket down and picked the little thing up around the tummy and held it out to him. Wow, it did have legs, sorta. It yipped at him. Rogue looked so proud.

"Gee chere. I thought ya said ya wanted a real dog." He chuckled a little confused.

Wolverine laughed out loud. "That ain't no dog. It's a rat wearing a fur coat."

Bobby joked. "Hey Rogue, I think somebody pulled one over on you." By then, all the guys were laughing a bit.

Her eyes misted up and her bottom lip started to quiver.

Oh hell

But there was no chance to take it back now. She choked back a sob, clutched the dog to her, and was gone in an instant.

"Rogue! Chere! Aw, I didn't mean it. It's cute. Really."

Unfortunately, it was late in the evening, and Rogue was so hurt she didn't want to talk to him. It wasn't the dog really. It was a combination of everything, job, house, X-Men, and then he'd made fun of her. She told him she wasn't mad, but to get some sleep. She needed to breath. Get a shower and sleep herself. They'd talk in the morning. He hardly slept at all.

He hoped he could make amends in the morning and got up early and made breakfast. Flower on the tray and everything, taking it up to her room.

"Chere?" he whispered. No answer. He unlocked the door and snuck in. What good was being a thief if you didn't use it sometimes?

She had at least changed into her nightshirt and was curled up on the bed with the puppy snoozing in the crook of her knees. This was to be an omen. The dog liked to sleep on the bed near Rogue.

"Rrrrrr. Yip, yip, yap."

"Good dog." He petted it, but it still grrr'd at him.

"Here. See. Peace offering." He held out the dog chew he bought the other day. Actually it was only part of one since the ones he'd bought seemed a bit too big. The little rat sniffed it, eyed him, and then wiggled a tiny tail taking the gift.

"Ah see yah charmed yah way intah another heart." Rogue yawned and stretched.

"I brought ya breakfast too."

"Oh Remy, that was so sweet. But yah didn't have tah. Ah know how yah hate tah get up early. An' ah should be the one apologizin. Ah over reacted. Ah know yah weren't really laughin at me. Ah guess ah was really tired."

Rogue reach over and put on the suppression collar and held out her arms to him.

He hugged her to him.

"Dat's ok. I'm sorry too. I knew how much dis meant to you an' I made fun o' it. She really is adorable. Like you."

"See Minx." She said to the puppy now trying to wiggle in between them. "Ah tol yah he wasn't such ah bad guy."

She cuddled the puppy for a minute while he petted it then she hopped up and put it in a big box she'd gotten.

"Theah yah go shugah. Here's yah home while ah house break yah. Yah probably want tah use yah paper and eat something."

Then she returned to him. The puppy didn't stay quiet the whole time, and her breakfast got cold but after all, make ups were almost worth the fights.

And the next day, she woke him up with breakfast in bed.

Besides, he was actually beginning to like the little furry terror. For something so small, Minx thought nothing was too big for her to take on. She pranced (the only way to describe it) around the house generally endearing herself to everyone but Bishop who she scared by dashing under his feet barking, (he pulled his gun on her), Scott, since she chewed his favorite gloves which he shouldn't have thrown on the foot stool, and Logan, since she stole the sandwich he'd placed on the TV tray down on the floor.

That had been a sight to see. Logan had been pushing her out of the way for days. Remy secretly suspected he didn't want to get attached to the animal. He acted that way around Jubilee's cat but couldn't help privately feeding and caring for it. He also suspected that's why Minx wasn't really afraid of Logan. "It looks like a rat, smells of puppy chow, and wets on the newspapers before I read them."

"Leave mah puppy alone. If yah weren't such ah slob, always throwin thah papers on thah floor, they wouldn't get wet. She confuses them with her papers. She's ah good dog. She's doing what she's suppose tah do."


Logan didn't even see the sandwich go although Remy watched Minx creep up on it for the better part of five minutes. She'd be a pretty good thief. It wasn't until she made the mistake of dragging it out into the middle of the room to eat it that Wolverine nearly had a cow.

"That's it! It's dead! I'm making teeny doggie kebabs!"

Remy pounced on the dog and sandwich, while everyone else was laughing hysterically..

"Come on mon ami. Ya put it in front o' her face. She's a dog. If ya didn't nearly eat off de floor, it wouldn't have happened."

Minx grrrrr'd at Wolverine wanting her sandwich. She'd stalked and killed it. Besides, possession is nine tenths of the law.

Logan instinctively rumbled back. That's when Rogue came in and found her baby in a growling match with Wolverine. Everyone else was practically rolling on the floor.

She grabbed Minx from Remy. "Logan. Ah tol yah. Yah leave mah puppy alone. And don't feed her this stuff." She waved the sandwich in front of him and then threw it in the trash can. "It's not good for growin puppies." Then left, puppy in hand.

Remy shrugged trying hard not to crack up. Logan looked at the trash can and grumbled. "That was my sandwich ... All right. Everybody get it out of your systems. " Another burst of laughter exploded in the room. He was never going to live this down.

As a concession to his tastes and because she thought Minx needed a friend since she was beginning to think of Logan as another animal to play with, Solitaire got Remy a little black kitten from the Humane Society. Despite the whole cat and dog thing, Mischief and Minx seemed to hit it off, and things finally calmed down on that front.

And both he and Rogue were slowly learning what it meant to really compromise and learn to live with not just love one another.

But one of the real disappointments they'd had over the last few weeks was about Rogue's powers. Yes, the suppression collar worked, but they soon found that if she wore it for more than about four hours a day, it started delaying how long it took for her powers to return. It could be up to fifteen, twenty minutes before her body recovered from her powers being dampened. This scared the hell out of Remy. She would be way too vulnerable during an attack by super beings. She only wore it at times they chose together and checked the clock. So she was back to staying covered up most of the time, even at work, and he couldn't just breeze in and hug and kiss her.

As for the Z'Noxx chamber, Rogue had been right about that. Joseph was right that it did shield the mind but there was still some physical drain. Rogue's powers were touch sensitive and drained both mental and physical characteristics. The Z'Noxx chamber definitely prevented the mental and slowed down the physical, but soon whoever she was touching began to get weak, then dizzy. This scared Rogue who was afraid Remy could eventually be hurt, and he was very vulnerable after being with her before his strength returned. All in all, neither were ideal and had to be used with caution. So they tended to use both sparingly. The Z'Noxx chamber in their bedroom at night so they could sleep in the same bed. Rarely were they in contact the whole night, but at least they could cuddle some and Rogue didn't have to worry about accidentally touching him briefly. The collar for more strenuous pastimes. It wasn't ideal, but he wasn't complaining.

However, Rogue was making progress with her absorbing power finally . A week after they had gotten back together, he wanted her to go in his mind, to show her everything, no more secrets. And so they had touched bare hands opening to one another. But it didn't work. Rogue was stunned then elated. It had all been a matter of trust and her concern for him. She trusted him now, and if she knew it was him, and let herself be open to him, she could generally shut her absorbing power down for a few minutes. But the instinctive subconscious drives set up for her self-protection were strong. Normally, even asleep, her powers were naturally 'on'. But at least now she knew. They, Hank, and Jean worked as often as they could hoping someday that the reverse would be true. That her power would naturally be 'off' unless she wanted to use it ... Someday.

He removed the gum again. Another piece gone tasteless. They were moving into the new place tomorrow, pets and all, and he wanted to get this information hoping it was none of his business and maybe he could quit worrying about it and help her with getting the house together. They didn't have much yet but a bedroom suit and a couch.

He watched the hotel's door and the window of the room where the occupant should come in. He hoped something hadn't already happened, but usually a professional spent a little time casing the mark. Maybe luck was still with him.

An hour later, a shadow went through the hotel's door and then a light came on in the room. About time. Remy climbed down the outside of the building and set himself gracefully on the ledge. What he wanted was a good look as this guy and hanging around the hallway or front door for hours was not very inconspicuous. He'd broken into the room hours earlier and found nothing, just a few clothes and toiletries. The guy definitely was a pro. No info on the mark or anything else left lying around.

If he was real lucky, he'd recognize the guy. One of the benefits of once dating an assassin was you met and heard about other assassins. Not to mention, he'd run into his fair share of the best out for his head over the years. If he knew who the guy was, it might give him clues to the mark or at least allow him to use his contacts out of town to then see what they could find out. If this was a war between big crime bosses, he could anonymously contact the police, warn his street friends and do what he could get the guy caught, but in those cases, stopping one assassin usually only led to the next. He knew from experience that if two 'families' planned to go head to head with one another, they would, one way or the other. But if it had anything to do with mutants and humans, the X-Men would need to know too.

Remy leaned against the wall and peered in the window through ratty curtains at the shadow that moved there. As soon as he got a good glimpse of the guy, he knew he was in trouble. But by then it was too late. He heard the shot as the wall behind him felt hot then imploded. He fell crashing back into the room. Target aimed the destabilizer gun at him and fire. If Gambit had tried to stop his movement from the first blast, he would have been dead. That would have been a normal reaction, and he would have landed right where the bullet hit the wall behind him. But he never slowed down, using the momentum of the fall to keep rolling and then leap back through the bathroom door. The gun that the dealer had supplied the hitman with shot a bullet that sent out a small atomic charge disrupting the electron bonds in the object it hit for about twenty feet. Inanimate objects fell apart. Living beings had complete cellular breakdown. It was rumored to be a very painful death.

And Target had near perfect aim. That was his mutant gift, to be able to focus on an object with unerring accuracy. He could follow a person through a moving crowd with ease and could hit most any mark. The Greek was ruthless and relentless. Remy knew the man's targeting senses had detected him the minute he 'invaded' the hitman's space.

Gambit had no intention of letting Target get off a second shot. His aim was pretty good too and rolled out of the bathroom letting loose a barrage of cards that blew Target off his feet. The gun skidded out of his hands into a far corner. Remy was on him in a flash. A spinning kick sent the rising hitman crashing into the furniture. The Greek man was powerfully built and of average height moving with deliberate but smooth motion. He landed heavily but righted himself quickly jerking a wicked looking knife out of a hidden area. He leaped at Gambit slashing trying to make him fall back and leave an exposed area ripe for the kill. Remy moved with him instead taking a minor cut on the arm rather than expose his gut, depending on the knife, his body armor might not stop it. He stepped with Target using the man's momentum to help whip him hard against the wall.

Remy heard a slick wet sound and a small gasp as Target slumped and then fell back the knife embedded almost to the hilt in his chest. Gambit checked the hit man but was pretty sure there was nothing left to be done. Right through the heart. Right through the hitman's protective vest. Nice knife.

He hadn't meant or wanted to kill him. He really didn't like killing. He had only wanted to knock the wind out of Target. And he needed the hitman to talk. A pro like him wasn't hired by just anyone. Damn.

The fight had of course brought attention to the area, and he could hear sirens in the distance. Probably called by the hotel manager. Knowing the patrons of a place like this hole would mind their own business, Remy quickly rifled through Target's jacket tossing aside change and money. He stuffed what little paper the man had on him in a pocket and took off. The police could handle the rest.

Soon far away from the scene, Gambit stopped his bike under a street light and examined the stuff in Target's pockets. The man was too good to keep much. No address or date book, electronic or other wise. Most of the paper turned out to be candy wrappers. Target had been watching someone too. But there was one thing. A picture of a young woman. A redhead, very attractive. She seemed vaguely familiar like he might have seen her face somewhere but nothing specific. It was just an snapshot folded and bent with the writing Erase, $1M scribbled on the back. Definitely a serious hit. And unfortunately, Target was strictly freelance. He kept no friends or contacts. Secret hits were his speciality.

Now who would want to hire an assassin to kill a beautiful creature like her? She didn't look the dangerous type. Someone at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or in with the wrong crowd? He sighed. No way to ever know now. He'd pass the picture around but doubted it would turn anything up. New York was a big city, and she didn't seem the type his people would know, and he knew most of the uptown paramours in the business already. She wasn't one of them. He'd just have to wait and listen for anything connected.

Damn. He wished the girl luck.

Remy started up his bike and headed to check with some of his contacts unfortunately expecting to be back at the X-Mansion empty handed before too early in the morning.

Around noon the next day, he and Rogue packed up their clothes and few belonging in the mansion van. Logan was going to drive it to the house while Rogue took her car and he took his bike. The stuff they had already bought was going to be delivered this afternoon. The pets got to ride with Rogue although Mischief thought pet carriers were grossly unfair since Minx just rode on the seat.

The rest of the X-Men scrambled into cars to go along and see the place. Lately, they had been unusually helpful around him even apologetic. Maybe they were sorry about breaking in on him and Rogue. He wasn't use to the attention. It was getting on his nerves. In a way , he had liked it better when they ignored him.

He still worried about the girl a bit but had learned he couldn't let that sort of thing eat him up. He'd be crazy by now if not. He'd keep his ears open and do what he could. His contacts knew what he was looking for.

Today, though, he was going to help Solitaire with the house. There were plenty of things to occupy his time.

They got to the place and everyone piled out heading quickly past him and Rogue as she let the pets loose. Brother, the team seemed a bit overenthusiastic. It was only a house.

Jean was already at the door opening it. Solitaire had given her a key just in case.

The whole group stood in front of them as they approached the place. Remy was getting a really bad feeling about his.

"Remy, ... Rogue." Jean smiled. "We all wanted you to know that you're family and well... We got you a few things for the house.

Rogue's eyes widened, and she stammered.

"We... don' know what to say. How sweet. Thank y'all."

Jean opened the door and lead them in. They stood there and stared. There was a piece of furniture or painting or something new in each room.

Then everybody started showing off what they'd gotten them. The furniture came and everyone stayed and helped for a few more hours more. The place really did feel like home now, and suddenly Remy realized at long last he'd been accepted.

As they were finally leaving, Rogue placed the collar around her neck and hugged him.

"Welcome home lovah." She smiled.

"Glad ta be here, mon amour. More dan anything. But ya t'ink dis means I have ta be giving up my 'bad boy' membership card now?"

"Hardly, you'll always be a 'bad boy'. Mah bad boy. Ah wouldn't have it any othah way."

They both laughed and then kissed.

"I love ya chere."

"Always shugah"

He swept her up in his arms and carried her through the door.

"Sinister, you might be interested in this."

Arclight dumped the paperwork on his desk unceremoniously and turned on her heel to stomp out. He could tell she was in a fowl mood. What had gotten under her skin?

He opened the folder and understood imediately. All this time and she was still carrying a torch for the boy. The photos of Rogue and Gambit nuzzling out by the X- Mansion lake were fuzzy because of the satelite resolution but clear enough that you could tell who they were, barely. Best he could do.

So they had made up? Sinister was beginning to wonder if he really understood Gambit afterall. He'd been convinced after Rogue left, Gambit would eventually return to him. Selling her out just to get her back. Looking out for himself, his wants and needs. It didn't happen. The cajun had waited hoping she'd return. Letting her go if she didn't. Selfless. That wasn't what he believed about LeBeau at all.

He stared at the photo and how close together the couple was. It appeared Rogue was going to surprise him as well. She had always been afraid to open herself up before. To risk being vulnerable to someone. The fact that she was willing to try to work for their relationship and do things she'd never done for anyone else was telling. True love. How romantic. How naive.

He didn't know whether to be disappointed or dance with joy. He had wanted LeBeau back working for him, but his plans for Gambit's genetic heritage were working out better than he could have possibly dreamed. He always knew Scott and Jean would end up together and hopefully give him even more progeny besides his creation, Nathan, but now Remy and Solitaire as well? Ah, would those genetic lines ever let him down? Well, there were the other two. Neither as impressive, and no perfect genetic matches for them unless there had been even more hanky panky than he thought. After all, he had been wrong before. Gambit was living proof.

And he'd never thought Solitaire would amount to anything. She was just an experiment to see if he could do it, and then she had no control over her gifts at all. A pity she didn't know what a wonder of science she was. The first in vitro fertilization; long before anyone else. His few years practicing as a fertility doctor in the rural South to test his theories paid off after all. Since most of his experiments died, he'd considered her a success just for being alive. All her stupid mother wanted was to be pregnant. So he made her pregnant, and had used the sperm of his choice deciding on a girl since there wasn't one of those. Surprisingly the genetic characteristics still bred fairly well. Although he did seem to always keep getting that unique hair abnormality every time he experimented with that particular genetic line. She did absorb energy and channel it just not the same energy or in the same way as the others. He shouldn't have been so surprised. Different maternal genes and the most obviously mutated DNA of the sperm samples he had obtained. He loved the military.

As for Gambit, his parentage had always brought up a bevy of interesting prospects. Perhaps it was time to put that information to use.



"Good afternoon Madame. Would your husband happen to be at home?"

"Can I telling him who's calling?"

"Confidential Insurance. I'm calling concerning a policy he has with us."

In the background, "Dear. It's an insurance agent. Something about a policy."

Even quieter still, "I think he's really trying to sell you some. But I hate to be rude."

"If he is, I'll get rid of him. I have plenty of insurance."

"Fine. I'll go finish dinner. The kids will be here soon."

Seconds later:

"Hello? Can I help you?"

"Indeed, you already have. So nice to actually be able to talk to you after all these years."

"Who is this?"

"A friend. A good friend. Who else would be so willing to help you hide your dirty little secrets?"

Slightly lower. "Se.. Secrets? You're not an insurance agent. What is this about? Explain yourself or be cut off."

"Oh you wouldn't want to do that. Then I might get desperate to get your attention. Talk to your wife instead. You wouldn't want that. And I most certainly sell insurance. The kind a man who cheats on his wife and family would find most essential. You do understand, don't you?"


"You do understand, don't you?"

Even more quietly than the lower tone of voice before. "I .. I don't know what you're talking about."

"No? It was twenty -seven years ago. Your wife and new born second child were back from the hospital only months before. What was it? Too many sleepless nights? Too many diapers? Trouble at work? You felt neglected for the children? ... All marriages have difficult periods. Believe me, I know ... But then you met her. Young ... They're always young aren't they? ... Charming, captivating, desirable, and .. that unique accent. She made you feel needed and desirable too, didn't she?

"It ... it wasn't like that. I love my wife. I was only trying to help that girl. It ... it just happened, just that once."

"Of course, of course. I understand."

"What... what do you want?"

"Nothing ... much. Information ... when I ask. So little to pay for adultery wouldn't you say?"

"You bastard. This is blackmail."

"Quite correct. And you'll pay it, or I'll deliver a little package to your wife with the blood tests and birth certificate of your son."

"Sss ... Son? No. That's...that's impossible. She got rid of the child. I gave her plenty of money. Put her in touch with the best doctors."

"Really? Since she left the state to have the procedure done, and you never heard from her again, how do you know that for sure?"

"A son? I... have a son? Is ... is he alright?"

"Why would you care? He meant nothing to you then."

"Look you ... I did care, do care. I would have helped her with the child if I known. She was ... too young... and really messed up. I thought she would be better off without a child. I thought it was best for all of us ... Please ... tell me if he's ok."

"He's alive if that's what you want."

"You ... Fine .... Can I meet him? I want to meet him. We can work something out. You got the wrong guy if you think I can help you in any way. I don't have lots of money or access to any information that would be worth anything to anybody."

He could hear the amused malice in the voice even over the phone.

"Oh I think you do. I really think you do. As for the boy. Maybe someday. After you've proved your worth to me. But for now to prove to you I have all the data necessary to back up my threat, go look in your mailbox."

"But it's Sunday."

"Special delivery. And don't worry. I'll be in touch when I need you to find out some things for me. After all, what are friends for if not to pay debts to one another?"

"You son of a ..."


His hand was shaking nervously. He felt cold and clammy. Why? Why now after all these years. And could it be? A son? The lump in his stomach grew with each second.

"Daddy? Daddy? We're here."

"John dear. Dinner's ready and the kids are here."

He came out of his thoughts and wiped his face. He'd check the mailbox later because he had no doubt what he'd find. Good god.

"Daddy? Oh, there you are."

"Huh? Sorry sweetheart. Just got off the phone. Bothersome salesmen."

"Are you alright? You look pale."

"Fine. Fine. I'm just fine." He reached out and hugged her.

"You know I love you don't you sweetheart?"

"Of course daddy how could you ever think I wouldn't know that. And I'll always love you. No matter what ... Are you sure nothing's wrong?"

"Jean? Come on, we've got toys from the Aunt and Uncle to get. Oh, hello Mr. Grey. Is everything alright?"

"Yes. Yes, Scott, every thing is perfectly fine. Perfectly fine." He stated while leading them out of the study. "What could possibly be wrong?"

Sinister smiled as he rubbed his chin once again considering what information Mr. Grey could best supply him about the X-Men and then his mind turned to the possible implications that the crossing of different Grey and Summers genes could bring him. Maybe the babies of the families could even out-do their older siblings? Yes, this had distinct possibilities. Distinct possibilities indeed.



Hope you've had fun, or at least a chuckle, sniffle, or an 'Oh no. That's awful. What was she thinking'.


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